This plot, too, was once occupied by a period property – in this case, a 1960s cottage. It was home to Sky News presenter Sharon McKenzie, her husband Paul Gregg, a channel manager at Fox Sports News, and their young son and daughter. The couple wanted to replace the cottage with something more spacious and better planned. However, their proposal – a boxy, charcoal-grey rendered structure with a black steel roof – proved controversial. ‘The house is in a conservative setting, and the contemporary design met with numerous objections from the neighbours,’ recalls Tania. Nevertheless, the plans went ahead, and the cottage was demolished to make way for a new U-shaped house with a large central courtyard and a lap pool tiled in black slate.
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Since the property was completed at the end of last year, it’s possible that a few of the neighbours may have changed their minds about it, especially if they’ve caught a glimpse of the beautifully subtle interior. ‘Sharon and Paul wanted a home that would be a calm retreat from the storm of a busy life,’ explains Tania. ‘Sharon had fallen in love with a luxury lodge called The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, and wanted to create a similar feel using raw materials and a muted, pale palette.’
Minimalist interiors with little colour are always at risk of feeling cold, but Tania and Gillian avoided this with their skilful use of natural finishes and fabrics. Wooden ceiling beams, salvaged from an old warehouse, are perhaps the most important feature, adding an imperfect touch to the white walls and steel windows and doors. Wall panelling in leather and natural linen has a similar effect, softening the sharp edges of the architecture. Even hard materials, such as the brown-veined marble in the kitchen and the bronze vanity units in the bathrooms, were chosen for their warm tones and their ability to weather beautifully.
A variety of historical references – including the pitched roof, the suspended cast-iron fireplace in the living room and the oak dining table – balance the more modern aspects of the house and make it feel friendlier. Tania and Gillian took elements from vernacular buildings around the world, such as farmhouses in Belgium and Australian shearing sheds. They also studied the ‘simple, earthy aesthetic’ of Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen and the ‘minimal-meets-classic’ approach of French interior designer Joseph Dirand (read more about his style on p69).
Like a well-composed symphony, everything in the home works in harmony, and the owners couldn’t be happier. This bold new arrival may initially have caused a stir in the neighbourhood, but we think it was well worth it. handelsmannkhaw.com
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